Following Riek Machar’s reported reappearance in Khartoum, the South Sudanese government has started laying down conditions for the eventual return home of the former vice president and rebel leader.
Two months after South Sudan’s former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar withdrew to the bush, the government in Juba has been setting out its position on his eventual return home.
South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makwei said in Juba that the government had “no problem with his coming here,” but he should “denounce violence.”
In a reference to Machar’s perceived ambition to run for the presidency, Makwei urged Machar to “abstain from politics” until the elections.
The next elections in South Sudan are scheduled for 2018.
Peter Nyaba, one of Machar’s close advisers, described the conditions set by Juba as unacceptable.
“Dr Machar is a very important factor in the peace process. You cannot implement the peace process without him,” he said.
Nyaba was referring to the peace deal signed by Machar and President Salva Kiir in August 2015 in a bid to end a civil war which started in December 2013. Machar was reinstated as first vice president under the power sharing agreement.
Machar fled Juba and went into hiding in July shortly after the fighting broke out in the capital in which hundreds were killed. Kiir replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, who had acted as the rebels’ chief negotiator during peace talks.
Nyaba accused Salva Kiir of destroying the peace agreement. “Salva Kiir has been clear from day one that this agreement would not be implemented because he did not want to share power,” he said.
‘Destination of his choice’
Machar’s whereabouts remained a mystery until Tuesday when Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman announced via the state news agency that his country had “received, lately, Dr. Riek Machar, for pure humanitarian reasons, especially his need for treatment and medical care.”
Osman said Machar’s condition was now stable and he would stay in Sudan “until he leaves for a destination of his choice.”
Machar has said in the past he would only return to Juba after a regional peacekeeping force had secured the capital. Earlier this month, the UN Security Council voted to send an additional 4,000 peacekeepers to South Sudan with a strengthened mandate.
Meanwhile both sides in the conflict say that at least 275 people have died in renewed fighting. Phillip Aguer, governor of Jonglei state, said rebels had attacked the army barracks in the northeast town of Pajut on August 19. He said at least 242 opposition and 23 government soldiers died and 10 civilians were killed in the crossfire.
But a spokesman for the rebels, James Gatdet, said the army launched the offensive and that more than 300 soldiers and 30 rebels were killed.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged South Sudan’s leaders “to get the job done” by fully implementing the peace deal, or face a UN arms embargo and sanctions.
James Shimanyula in Nairobi contributed to this report.